Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Participatory democracy tastes especially sweet in Indiana, since the wait was 40 years

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 05/07/2008 – 9:47am

pictures courtesy of me. I took these pictures.

South Bend, IN — Indiana tasted primary democracy for the first time in 40 years last night. Going 40 years between events makes the reality taste sweeter.

Indiana is one of those states that has always been in the back of the room, raising their hand in an effort to be heard. But 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 came and went. And Indiana wasn’t always the most attractive setting for Democrats. Look at the states to its north, east, and west: Michigan and Illinois went Democratic in 2004 and Ohio likely did as well. Even Kentucky went Democratic in 1996. The last time Indiana went Democratic: Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

So when nobody thinks you will do anything different but vote Republican, and the candidates have been all but picked by the time they get to you, you are the kid who gets picked last for kickball.

When I was in Plymouth, I asked several people about whether they were excited about President Clinton’s appearance. I figured that even Plymouth had already had their share of political celebrity. I was surprised to find this was the first appearance by anyone, even in 2008.

Crowd waiting for Bill Clinton in Plymouth.

Plymouth, and the surrounding areas, are the kind of places where generations live. Few move to Plymouth from, say, well, Chicago. So Clinton’s visit was the first time in their memories of any kind of attention. One gentleman in line told me of seeing Robert F. Kennedy in Indianapolis on the night when Martin Luther King. Jr. was assassinated. Kennedy ended up winning the Indiana primary. A 40-year-old memory that was as close as he ever got to this moment, and he remembered it like it was yesterday.

After Hillary Clinton’s speech in South Bend, this young couple with an about 2-year-old daughter were trying to get a better look at Clinton as she was giving autographs for the voters. The father put the young girl on his shoulders, and I suggested that would really work. Well, Sen. Clinton was pleased to see the young girl and reached out to her and shook her little hand. The look on that father’s face was priceless, the joy he felt radiated as warm as the sun beating down on our heads.

I met a 40-year-old white mother with two young daughters after Clinton’s South Bend speech. She was a strong Hillary supporter who was upset about Joe Andrew’s flip from Clinton to Obama, but not so much over who he picked. “For the first time in 40 years, we’ve counted. It’s fine that Andrew flipped, but to say stop it before Indiana votes, it’s too much.”

I recall some of that same emotion during the 1992 presidential campaign when I lived in Michigan. We were excited that Dan Quayle flew into the small Battle Creek regional airport near my apartment and campaigned in nearby Kalamazoo, Bill Clinton spoke in downtown Battle Creek, and Peter Jennings actually anchored the ABC World News Tonight from the banks of the Kalamazoo River in Battle Creek. And this wasn’t even the primary, this was the general election. I still remember the excitement of having the attention paid to our area.

Elections can, in many ways, feel like a TV show with characters on television. But when you get a feel for who these people are, when you talk with people who feel truly energized, they feel their vote, their participation makes a difference. And for the first time in two generations, Indiana got a true taste of democracy. And after getting to see and hear Clinton and Obama along with their supporters and surrogates, perhaps the Democrats can do something they haven’t done in 44 years: vote Democratic for president.

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Written by democracysoup

May 7, 2008 at 9:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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